He is by some distance the top scorer for Manchester United this season, 18 ahead of the next highest scorer Juan Mata, and he is the fourth highest scorer in the Premier League.
Mourinho felt the magic provided by Ibrahimovic - who has hit nine goals in his last eight Premier League appearances away from home - helped his side get on course for a good result before Sebastian Larsson's red card made Sunderland's task even tougher.
Despite Defoe wasting another chance for Sunderland late on, United were able to see out the remainder of the game easily, with substitute Rashford adding a third in the 90th minute, drilling the ball into the bottom corner after being teed up by Ibrahimovic.
"If you look at Zlatan, why can't the top teams look at Jermain", Mourinho said.
"After Manchester City and Liverpool's victories yesterday [against Hull City and Stoke City respectively] it was very important for us to win this match and to stay there putting pressure on them".
"The game was good and we get 1-0 and they get the red card". Every team has a couple of them.
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"You could feel the negative feeling around the team".
Sunderland needing a win to boost their chance of surviving relegation began brightly with captain Lee Cattermole forcing a save from Sergio Romero who stood in for the injured David De Gea from 25 yards. "The Premier League we cannot win, but Europa League we can", Mourinho said.
United took their foot off the gas with the match all but won and Thursday's Europa League quarter-final at Anderlecht looming large, with Defoe leading the hosts' attempts to reduce the deficit. "Afterwards we play with one more, sometimes it can be more hard and sometimes it can be an advantage".
LONDON (AP) After 30 minutes of Sunday's Premier League game against Sunderland, Manchester United appeared in danger of meandering its way to another disappointing result.
Shaw is not totally a bad player but recurring injuries after the frightful double leg breaker has limited his form but his former boss could help him get back on his feet. I don't want to make you think it's the referee's fault, it's not that.